MH370: Likely piece of doomed plane found, U.S. official says

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(CNN) -- The American tourist who helped find a piece of wreckage that may have belonged to MH370 hopes the debris, if connected with the missing airliner, can provide a clue.

Blaine Gibson chartered a boat and organized a trip over the weekend on the coast of Mozambique. The owner of the boat and Gibson found the plane part washed ashore on a sandbar.

"It never occurred to me that I would find something like this here. It's almost like a dream. I don't know if it's from 370 or another plane. Whatever it is, even if it's not from 370, it raises awareness that people need to look for stuff on beaches," said Gibson.

He told CNN his "heart was pounding" when he first saw the wreckage, but expressed caution.

"The chances are pretty slim that it's the plane we are interested in," he said.

Still, Gibson -- who has been involved in the search for MH370 as a private citizen, and met some people who had family members on the flight -- recognizes the potential impact of his find.

"These are real people with real pain. Anything that can bring answers, I want to help do," he said about the victims' friends and families.

Further examination required

The debris is apparently from a Boeing 777, like the missing MH370 airliner, according to a U.S. official.

The discovery was reported to officials Monday, and Gibson handed over his find to Mozambique authorities, said Cmdr. Joao de Abreu Martins, chairman of the Institute of Civil Aviation of Mozambique.

The debris is on its way to Malaysia for further examination.

The part is believed to measure 35 inches by 22 inches. The wreckage is a piece of horizontal stabilizer skin, the U.S. official said.

The horizontal stabilizer is the part of the aircraft's tail that is horizontal as the plane flies.

The debris includes a fastener. An official at the fastener company, LISI Aerospace, said the part in question is a pretty standard part.

"I would expect to see this on many varieties of Boeing aircraft, not particular to a 777," said Jared Young, vice president of research and development.

An aviation source said there was no record of any Boeing 777 missing other than Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board.

No comment from airline

The mystery of what happened to the plane remains unsolved. The search has turned up some aircraft debris, but also some false leads.

It took more than a month for French investigators to confirm that debris found on Reunion Island in July was from the missing Malaysia Airlines plane.

The airline displayed similar caution Wednesday when it would not confirm that the newly found debris is from MH370. "It is too speculative at this point for MAS to comment," the airline said, using its initials.

Mozambique is about 1,300 miles (2,100 kilometers) west of Reunion Island, with the large island of Madagascar between them.

Debris found in Thailand in mid-January turned out not to be from MH370.

One of aviation's greatest mysteries

The disappearance of MH370 remains one of aviation's greatest mysteries.

The flight took off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia early in the morning, bound for Beijing.

At 1:19 a.m., as the plane was flying over the South China Sea, Malaysian air traffic controllers radioed the crew to contact controllers in Ho Chi Minh City for the onward flight through Vietnamese airspace.

The crew's acknowledgment of the request was the last thing ever heard from MH370: "Good night Malaysian three-seven-zero."

Shortly afterward, air traffic controllers in Malaysia lost contact with the plane somewhere over the sea between Malaysia and Vietnam.

The aircraft's transponder, which identifies the plane and relays details like altitude and speed to controllers, stopped transmitting. MH370 seemingly disappeared without a trace.

Malaysian authorities revealed later that military radar had tracked the plane as it inexplicably changed course, turned back to the west and flew across the Malaysian Peninsula, up the Strait of Malacca, before flying out of radar range at 2:14 a.m. and vanishing once again.


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